Lei Day celebrations in Hawaii
May Day is also called Lei Day in Hawaii, it’s a popular and fun way to cherish someone you love and care for with a beautiful lei, usually hand-made personally from the giver.
Leis were used regularly by the early Polynesians and settlers to the Hawaiian islands to honor their gods by twining greens into wreaths and making these as offerings. They also used the wreaths and flowered lei made of fragrant ginger blooms to decorate and adorn their bodies. Other fragrant greens used included maile and hala leaves were used extensively to celebrate various rites, special occasions and daily wear.
This concept of giving a lei was then popularized with the influx of tourism on the islands around the 19th and 20th century. Presenting a lei upon the arrival or departure of a love one is offered as a sign of affection and Aloha and is still widely used today.
Leis are now made with many aromatic flowers including tropical plumeria, jasmine, ginger, roses, gardenia, tuba rose and scented orchids, creating aromatic scents and beautiful displays for the wearer to enjoy. Every flower, greenery and color combination is available utilizing an assortment of organic materials including seeds, shells, fabric and various greenery.
(A gorgeous tutu or grandmother wears an elaborate collection yellow, orange and red-flowered leis at a hula performance in Hawaii)
Greenery leis above include greens of maile, ferns and seed pods, along with a very thick and aromatic plumeria lei above. Hula performances typically require using fresh flowered leis for adornment to the dancers ensemble.
Even leis are made to adorn horses in many of the annual parades throughout the islands. Here elaborate leis are made for the horse and the pau (rider) for the annual Merrie Monarch parade.
Lei day celebrations today in East Hawaii where I live are marked with lei and craft demonstrations, live music and performances and other festivities celebrating this well-loved tradition. It seems so proper for the first day of May to celebrate spring and a beautiful day by making a lei and giving it to someone special in your life..
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